Catching damage early is an effective way to maintain the collections in good condition. Performing repairs at the early stages of damage avoids the need for more extensive, expensive, and time consuming treatments later. Minor damage can be repaired quickly so that materials are available for use sooner. Staff working in Circulation, Reserves, Interlibrary Loan, and the Branches routinely review the condition of books that have been used by patrons, and send damaged materials to the Preservation Department. This guide is to assist staff in all these areas in identifying collection materials that are damaged for routing to Preservation.

PLEASE IDENTIFY DAMAGED BOOKS after they have been USED so that they can be sent to Preservation for repair, rebinding, replacement, or relabeling.

"USED" means both the materials that are returned after they have circulated, and those left on tables, study carrels and other places after users have finished using them within the Library.

In addition, IF BOOKS ARE NOT PROPERLY LABELED (e.g., the call number is incorrect, the label has fallen off or is illegible, or the spine is coming off) they should be sent to Preservation whether they have been used recently or not.

COMMON TYPES OF BOOK DAMAGE and wear-and-tear are shown below. Click on the images for a larger view. Click here for a diagram of the parts of a book and terms used in this guide.

Loose Hinges are a very common problem of hardcover books, especially large or heavy volumes. If neglected, loose hinges quickly lead to more severe damage. If caught early, these books can be repaired quickly and easily, and lengthy repairs can be avoided.

Worn and Damaged Covers

Covers Separating from the Text Block

Loose, Torn, and Missing Pages

Tape repairs may have been well intentioned, but tape is usually not effective in the long run. It causes damage that is difficult or impossible to reverse. Solvents have to be used to dissolve the adhesive, and stains often remain. If tape was applied to a book whose cover cloth or paper have deteriorated, removing the tape causes further damage. Tape should not be used to "repair" or mark library materials!

Stains and unidentified substances on the cover or pages.

It is surprising how many books fall victim to teething puppies.

Wet Books can often be saved if they are dried carefully under controlled conditions, but they must be taken care of immediately. If not, they are often unsalvageable. Wet books swell and become distorted, mold can grow, and if it has coated paper (glossy paper as in Newsweek Magazine and in many art book and journals), the pages will stick together permanently if they are not separated as they dry. Bring wet books to the Conservation Lab immediately and bring them to the attention of staff. If it is after hours, follow the instructions on How to Dry a Wet Book.

Mold - The first concern with mold-contaminated collection materials is human health and safety. If you encounter a moldy collection item, avoid handling it. Either isolate it by putting it into a plastic bag, tying the bag closed, and bringing it to the Preservation Department, or leave materials where they are and alert Preservation staff right away. Please read Mold in the Library for more information.

Preservation Home | Staff | Units and Activities | How You Can Help Preserve the Collections | Disaster Plan | Mold | Wet Books | Identifying Book Damage | Preservation Information, Links to Preservation Suppliers and Service Providers, Regional Appraisers, Bookbinders, and Conservators
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Last modified: March 16, 2009